Mongolian Dogs

After the first World War, scientist and explorer Roy Chapman Andrews spent a year in the wilds of Mongolia. Here's his account of the dogs of the region.

Every Mongol knows that his coffin will be the stomachs of dogs, wolves, or birds. Indeed, the Chinese name for the raven is the "Mongol's coffin." The first day we camped in Urga, my wife and Mrs. MacCallie were walking beside the river. Only a short distance from our tent they discovered a dead Mongol who had just been dragged out of the city. A pack of dogs were in the midst of their feast and the sight was most unpleasant.

The dogs of Mongolia are savage almost beyond belief. They are huge black fellows like the Tibetan mastiff, and their diet of dead human flesh seems to have given them a contempt for living men. Every Mongol family has one or more, and it is exceedingly dangerous for a man to approach a yurt or caravan unless he is on horseback or has a pistol ready. In Urga itself you will probably be attacked if you walk unarmed through the meat market at night. 

Although the dogs live to a large extent upon human remains, they are also fed by the lamas. Every day about four o'clock in the afternoon you can see a cart being driven through the main street, followed by scores of yelping dogs. On it are two or more dirty lamas with a great barrel from which they ladle out refuse for the dogs, for according to their religious beliefs they accumulate great merit for themselves if they prolong the life of anything, be it bird, beast, or insect.


  1. Love Andrews' writings, he was sort of like an Indiana Jones for nature-lovers.

  2. When i was nine or ten, I definitely wanted to follow in his footsteps as a paleontologist.

  3. I don't know too much about Mongolia but how bad can it be for humans in Mongolia that 'dogs live to a large extent upon human remains' ? That is alot of people dropping dead that dogs can actually depend on human remains for sustenance

  4. That is pretty amazing. I hope things have improved since Andrews's time.

  5. In the old times, Mongolians did not bury people when they passed away. They used to leave them out in the wild, on the ground. A sky burial, which is a Buddhist tradition. And those bodies used to get eaten by dogs, ravens and other cadaver eating animals. Also, during those times people did not care for dogs. But today, only a small number of nomads still do that. Most people bury their dead. And rest assured, those "savage" dogs are fully domesticated nowadays and people mostly use them as shepherd dogs or as guardian dogs. I have to say that I am glad that the burial system changed. I would not want to see scary dogs eating dead people everywhere each time I go out.

    1. I'm glad to hear things are a bit safer these days!


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